Arsenal: William Saliba worth wait as Gabriel Jesus transforms attack - what we learned in Crystal Palace win

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 (REUTERS)
(REUTERS)

When Arsenal came to Selhurst Park in April, they crumbled and their season lurched towards a crisis.

This time, however, they held firm and departed south London with their campaign getting off to a solid start that will have undoubtedly pleased Mikel Arteta.

There has been plenty of hype around Arsenal during pre-season, partly because they won all of their friendlies, but also due to the fact their transfer business was done early.

Often Arsenal have got to this stage still waiting on new arrivals, however the likes of Gabriel Jesus and Oleksandr Zinchenko got through the door quickly this summer and it has paid off.

Both of them had good debuts here at Selhurst, although they were upstaged by the third debutant, William Saliba.

William Saliba enjoyed a superb Arsenal debut, three years after joining the club (Getty Images)
William Saliba enjoyed a superb Arsenal debut, three years after joining the club (Getty Images)

Arsenal’s pre-season has been hyped, but it is nothing compared to the noise that has been around Saliba ever since he signed for the club back in 2019.

The Gunners paid Saint-Etienne £28million to get him then, however it was only now that he was making his competitive debut after a series of loan moves. The wait, it appears, may have been worth it as Saliba was imperious tonight as he helped Arsenal secure a 2-0 win.

The 21-year-old was big and strong in the tackle, but on the ball he was composed too and it was easy to see why he won Ligue 1’s Young Player of the Year award while on loan at Marseille last season.

The stats spoke for themselves at Selhurst Park as Saliba went the whole game without committing a single foul, making six clearances and seven recoveries. His pass completion rate was at 94 per cent too.

Arsenal will have big hopes for him this season and the optimism around the whole team will carry on after this win. They got off to a flying start, with the front three of Bukayo Saka, Jesus and Gabriel Martinelli looking very lively.

Jesus looks like he will have a transformative impact on this attack, giving them pace and drive which was lacking last season.

He created an early chance for Martinelli with a mazy run and, while the winger squandered that, he made up for it in the 20th minute. This was a goal straight off the training ground as a deep corner found Zinchenko and he headed back across goal for Martinelli to score.

Gabriel Jesus is already having a transformative impact on Mikel Arteta’s exciting attack (REUTERS)
Gabriel Jesus is already having a transformative impact on Mikel Arteta’s exciting attack (REUTERS)

From there you expected Arsenal to kick on, but instead Palace came back into it and the Gunners had to dig in. They couldn’t do that back in April, crumbling at a crucial time in their season, but this time they were solid.

Aaron Ramsdale was a big reason behind that, making a number of vital saves to keep out first Odsonne Edouard and then Eberechi Eze.

Palace, and the whole of Selhurst Park, seemed to sense that not taking those chances would prove costly - and so it did. Saka, who had spent most of his night tracking back to help Ben White deal with Wilfried Zaha, made sure of that as he grabbed a late assist. The winger fizzed in a cross and Marc Guehi could only head it into his own net instead of away from danger.

The late goal ensured Arsenal claimed all three points and brought an end to a performance that will boost confidence. The mood compared to April couldn’t be more different.

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